Chicago's Promise: Caught in a Gang Dragnet and Detained by ICE, an Immigrant Tests the Limits of a Sanctuary City

The Intercept

ATALAN-RAMIREZ, THE father of two U.S.-born children, is a longtime Chicago resident who, until his arrest, fixed trailers at a body shop. The city is a hotbed of gang activity, but he says he has never been affiliated with a criminal gang. Chicago police officers have a different opinion, however, having added Catalan-Ramirez to the police department’s gang database. It is that listing that led to Catalan-Ramirez’s violent arrest in a March 27 ICE anti-gang operation. In fact, Catalan-Ramirez alleges, an ICE agent said the Chicago Police Department had given federal immigration authorities a tip that he was affiliated with a Chicago street gang.

Catalan-Ramirez sued ICE, claiming his warrantless arrest from his home was unconstitutional. He also sued the city of Chicago and the city’s police department, accusing them of violating his due process rights by adding him to the gang database without notifying him or giving him a chance to challenge his inclusion on the list. After reaching a settlement with Chicago in December – in which the police department admitted that it couldn’t verify that he is a gang member — he dropped the lawsuit against the city and its police department. In January, ICE agreed to release Catalan-Ramirez from detention under an order of supervision, and Catalan-Ramirez withdrew his suit against the agency as well.

In a statement to The Intercept, the Chicago police denied tipping off ICE about Catalan-Ramirez. ICE declined to comment on the allegation.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has positioned himself as a staunch protector of immigrants’ rights, and the Chicago Police Department maintains that it does not cooperate with federal immigration authorities and “does not share any information or communicate with ICE regarding our database.” Catalan-Ramirez’s case, however, makes clear that ICE is getting information collected by police somehow and using it in enforcement operations. Is Chicago, then, truly a sanctuary for unauthorized immigrants?

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